Annabelle was the first spinoff film in the Conjuring series and while it was a decent entry, it may not have had as many answers. This prequel to what in essence was another prequel hopes to do better.
Synopsis: Several years after the tragic death of their little girl, a doll maker and his wife welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home. They soon become the target of the doll maker’s possessed creation, Annabelle. (Warner Bros)
Starring: Talitha Bateman, Miranda Otto, and Anthony LaPaglia
Writer: Gary Dauberman
Director: David F. Sandberg
Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (Unied States)
Running Time: 109mins
For showtimes and more, check out Annabelle: Creation on movietimes.com.
For those wondering, you don’t have to watch the first Annabelle film to understand this one. Just like the first Annabelle film, it is part of the growing universe based on the Conjuring films, more on that later. In this prequel to a prequel, after losing their daughter (Samara Lee) in a freak accident, a former doll maker named Samuel Mullins (LaPaglia) and his wife Esther (Otto) welcome a group of girls and a nun from an orphanage into their home who eventually become victimized by the doll maker’s possessed doll Annabelle.
The worst part about the film was that it takes awhile to get going. The first half plays like a standard horror film with the usual horror conventions that we’ve all seen before. None of it was particularly scary although it could induce a few jumps. During most of the first half, the story focuses on the Mullins’ new visitors as they experience the various horrors within the household. This wasn’t original by any means and predictable but it was still okay to watch, however, it did maybe run a little too long.
There wasn’t much character development here since most of the characters didn’t matter seeing that they were simply a means to advance the plot. The only important characters was a pair of orphan girl named Janice (Bateman) and her friend Linda (Lulu Wilson). Being stricken with polio and unable to walk, Janice became an easy target for the evil entity. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as the weakest link is usually the target but this gives us reason to root for her.
The film began with the Mullins losing their daughter and time jumps to the arrival of the orphans. Once we start to get some answers, things start to happen and the film becomes much more exciting. Those aforementioned cliches were still there as the evil entity controlling Annabelle made its presence known. It would have been nice to get a little more backstory than what we got here.
While the horror itself wasn’t the most original, it was elevated by the film’s creepy atmosphere and haunted house setting. The camera work through its use of focus when things were lurking in the background and the special effects through the film’s use of lighting and darkness and sound or lack of sound helped to frame scares. The script was decent but still had its cheesy moments. Characters didn’t always make the right decisions but with most of them being kids, it wasn’t as bad.
The acting was pretty good all around with Bateman being the best with the most to do here. Bateman was very compelling to watch as Janice, being the vehicle for most of the film’s scares and making an impressive transformation later on. The other girls and Stephanie Sigman as Sister Charlotte were okay despite not having much of an impact on the plot. LaPaglia and Otto were good as the Mullins so it would have been nice to have seen more of them.
For those wondering how this film connects with the previous Annabelle film and the Conjuring universe as a whole, the film leads right into the previous Annabelle film and a post-credits scene hints at films to come.
Overall, this was a good, well shot horror film with a very creepy atmosphere that does take awhile to get going. It was compelling to watch but its focus on scares rather than story or characters take away some of the impact of the scares.